Facebook's certainly making a push to become the new home of real-time events. Following an update to their on-platform search functionality, which focused on uncovering more relevant search matches based on trending discussions, and the release of their real-time news app Notify back in November, Facebook's now taken another step into Twitter's territory, announcing a new option called 'Sports Stadium' which enables users to follow along with real-time updates and discussion around sporting events.
As per the screenshots, Sports Stadium will be a dedicated feed examining the detail of each game. Facebook will gather all the related content about the match into one place, making it easy for sports fans to follow along, share top plays in real-time, and add their voice to the surrounding discussion.
As per Facebook's announcement:
"With Facebook Sports, all the content on Facebook related to the game is in one place, and it comes in real time and appears chronologically. You can see:
- Posts from your friends, and their comments on plays
- Posts and commentary from experts, like teams, leagues and journalists, with easy access to their Pages
- Live scores, stats and a play-by-play
- Game info, like where to find the game on TV"
To access this new option, all you need to do is search for the game on Facebook and you'll be immediately re-directed to the relevant discussion. Simple enough, but Facebook does note that they're looking for ways to improve this integration to make it easier for people to find Sports Stadium content - that'll likely come about through an algorithm that'll detect the potential interest of each user in specific sporting events, then give those most likely to be interested an alert linking to the Sports Stadium coverage from their News Feeds. The new function will be available from today with coverage of NFL matches - as of right now, the option is only available via iOS for U.S. users, though Facebook is planning on a wider roll-out to more regions and sports soon.
It's an interesting move by Facebook, and it aligns with another project which may be on the cards for Zuckerberg's social giant. A patent posted online recently detailed Facebook's plans for a new system that would further integrate Facebook into people's TV viewing experience.
The system would merge your Facebook and home entertainment experiences by connecting Facebook direct to your TV via a 'social TV dongle' device which connects your mobile to your TV input. And more than just adding comments from your Facebook friends on screen, it'd also be able to show you what your friends were watching at any given time so you could switch over and join the discussion.
In itself, this isn't necessarily ground-breaking - plenty of social networks have been working on TV integrations for some time - but coupled with newer innovations like Facebook's live-streaming tool, and now Sports Stadium, you can see how an option that could further integrate your Facebook and TV experience could be of significant benefit to Facebook's wider plans. If The Social Network really is making a push on 'second-screening' and dominating real-time discussion, it would make sense to see them working to make this social TV option a reality very soon.
And when you add to that their new deal with ratings company Nielsen, where Facebook conversations around TV programs will be factored into Nielsen's newly created 'Social Content Ratings', all the pieces start to fit. In fact, Facebook released some stats along with the Nielsen announcement which show that Facebook usage peaks at the same time as TV viewership in many countries, underlining the connection between The Social Network and media consumption behavior.
Given such strong ties between the two, it's no wonder Facebook's investigating ways to further merge online conversations with offline viewing activity - and as such, the prospect of a Facebook link-up to your TV doesn't seem like such a far-fetched, or far-off, idea.
It's hard to know exactly where Facebook's planning to take their real-time coverage and TV integration push, but amongst all those moving parts there's clearly a bigger strategy in play here - and one which takes aim at Twitter and their position as the home of real-time discussion. Twitter's making their own moves of course, integrating Periscope content into Twitter feeds and exploring new ways to engage celebrities, particularly during major events. But if Facebook decides to move on this, and gets momentum via projects like Sports Stadium, it could spell big trouble for Jack Dorsey and Co. Trouble which not even 10,000 characters would be able to explain them out of.